Just got back from dinner. Had a great time. Being able to talk to two published authors (Wild Card author Mary Anne Mohanraj also joined us) was rather spellbinding. They had some great publishing stories and we talked alot about other books and authors we all liked. So there wasn't too much ASoIaF talk.
However, GRRM did talk a little bit more about ep. 8 which he is writing. He really wouldn't get nailed down about where the episode ends but he did say it would also involve the NW finding Otho and Jafer Flowers and the Dothraki and the Lamb Men. So pretty cool!
One thing I found interesting that she didn't mention was GRRM's response to a question about how he keeps all the details straight as he writes more books.
GRRM responded that this was one of the things that was making Dance take so long, namely having to go back and check a bunch of details. He said that without search functions in documents he would have gone mad.
He gave a very funny rant about eye color - about how in the real world, we really notice anyone's eye color unless we're very close to them, but in books, everyone has their eye color described. Having to go back and check the eye color he gave for hundreds of characters was an example of a detail that could drive him batty; GRRM said he regretted mentioning the eye color of any of his characters. He also noted that as a brown-eyed person, he finds it annoying that brown-eyed characters are always portrayed as ordinary, while the doers of great deeds always have blue or hazel eyes or something - he notes that he himself was somewhat guilty of this with the violet eyes of Dany or the red eyes of Melisandre.
He said that in all seriousness, what was most important in rereading prior books to make sure he got the continuity right was speech patterns - each of his hundreds of characters has a distinct way of talking that he wants to make sure he is faithful to.
Another interesting thing he mentioned: he mentioned the coming of age of Arya in Braavos in the context of how a writer had to discipline himself to write only as many chapters as were necessary to serve the story, saying that what Arya was dealing with in Braavos could make a worthy young adult novel in its own right.
Another tidbit I liked (this I think from Friday night): that while Tyrion was his favorite character and the most like himself, and for those reasons perhaps the easiest for him to write, these chapters have been harder in Dance because of the dark turn Tyrion's story has taken.
He talked about how in typical fantasy, a magician will throw lightning bolts and kill thousands of men, but in 'real' medieval times, more men died of disease than on the battlefield, due to the unsanitary conditions involved in keeping together a large army - to me, there was a hint that we may see some of this effect of disease in Dance.
In talking about his progress writing Dance, he mentioned that he is now writing the epilogue - this doesn't mean that he's finishing up; he was clear that he was writing this part out of order. As we've heard before, the he said that resolution of the Meereenese knot was the major thing left to complete in Dance.
In response to a question about whether it was hard to kill a character, he said that it always was, even if the character was an evil bastard. He said that the Red Wedding was the hardest thing he's ever written, and that he put off doing it until the rest of the book was complete.
The Friday night reading was the lengthy Jon Snow chapter that others have probably read before, but which I had disciplined myself not to view online. Martin does the voices of his characters very well - I liked Sam's squeaky, stuttering falsetto.
Finally, to me the most interesting thing he said publicly all weekend were some comments about the nature of writing and what he tries to do. He said that pure good-and-evil fantasy wasn't interesting to him; while Tolkien had done Sauron masterfully, he'd had a lot of bad imitators doing 'dark lord' villains. He noted that to him the most interesting characters in Lord of the Rings were the more flawed heroes, folks like Boromir and Denethor.
He made the point rather dramatically by saying that all fiction could be lumped into two types: Good guy punches bad guy in the nose, or the human heart struggles against itself. He said he was really only interested in writing the second kind of fiction.
At the beginning of the Q&A, GRRM decided to forestall a few questions.
So he announced, "quot;I'm still working on IT"quot; and said he had more than 1,300 pages in final draft form. Right now he is working on the epilogue - but that doesn't necessarily mean its the last thing to get done. He will post on his LJ Not A Blog when he is done. He won't hint when he is done. There will be no smoke signals. He will be posting "quot;I'M DONE"quot; when he is done.
He talked about the HBO series and how it is 10 episodes and 1 season right now. Maybe they will move to 2 seasons per book if the series continues but it all depends on how the first season does. HBO does not care about ratings, it cares about subscriptions - so he urged us to subscribe to HBO and to tell them the reason we were subscribing was Game of Thrones. He added that he cannot get anyone a job on the show - he gets lots of letters from people asking him to do this. He knows they are looking for extras with large beards to be on the show but you need to be in Northern Ireland and he has nothing to do with it.
Okay onto questions...
(1) Will we be seeing GRRM as an extras in the show?
There is some chance of this. We need to watch the show closely.
(2) How well is the book translating to tv?
GRRM said that they are doing a faithful "adaptation". But it is an ADAPTATION. With only 10 hours to cover the entire book there is obviously going to be some difference. Some minor characters will not be there. Some will be regulated to background non speaking parts. Some favorite dialogue will be cut. If you liked Jackson's LOTR movies, you will be happy because it is about in that realm of faithfulness. He is pretty happy with what he has seen so far. But he said its going to get harder as the series progresses as the characters separate more and more and it becomes more complex. But right now they are all just focusing on season 1 by trying to stay faithful to the book and make good television. He's got a lot of fans but a large book audience is only a drop in the bucket compared to tv audiences.
(3) Did it give HBO producers "pause" that the book has two separate plots only vaguely connected?
He wasn't in the room when the HBO producers were discussing the plot so he has no idea if it gave them..."pause" But he pointed out if it did, they seem to have moved beyond that now.
(4) Who is his favorite character?
Tyrion. He feels really lucky with the casting of his character for the HBO series. He loves what he has seen so far. But Tyrion is the easiest to write for him. He is funny but has angst. He is the most like GRRM...but GRRM is taller. However, he loves all of the characters he creates, even the a-holes.
(5) Trebla then asked his question about the skinchanger and the faceless man to which GRRM replied - probably not. (I didn't write anything more down here because I figured Trebla could supplement/correct as needed.)
GRRM then did a brief Fever Dreams commercial and urged people to check out his comic at the Avatar booth and promised that his vampires "Do not twinkle".
(6) What inspired him to set Fever Dreams where it is?
GRRM talked about living in Dubuque, Iowa which was once an important steam boat port. He got interested in steam boats so he decided to write a story with them. Being a fantasy writer, he decided to stick vampires into the story. He didn't end up actually writing the story until he moved to New Mexico where there is no water.
(7)Has he gotten any new knights?
He gets them all the time but his collection has slowed down because he has no time right now.
(8) What is the future of Wild Cards?
Still going. Working on volume 21 which he hopes to deliver next month. He hopes to do more beyond that. Ft. Freak should be a cool book. It centers around NYC's 5th precinct which handles all the police problems in the Wild Card world.
(9) How does he collaborate with other writers?
There is no easy answer to this. Its like having sex - its different with every person. GRRM talked about his early experience with his first girlfriend and how he thought he had sex all figured out after her and knew what women liked. But then he got his second girlfriend and she liked completely different things so he had to learn all over again. Collaborations are like this. He mentioned his experience with Hunter's Run and how he approached Daniel by asking him, "How do you feel about a 3 way with two old fat guys?" He talked about how collaborating has changed with the internet. In the old days when he was working with Lisa Tuttle you had to type up your pages, send them through the mail to the other person, then they would have to retype your pages with their changes and add their bits and send them back to you and how much time it would take to do this.
(10) How does one socialize with other writers?
GRRM talked about founding a SF writer group in Chicago back when he was living here and recommended looking for a writers group to join as one way to connect with other writers. He stressed that you should look for writers who are your own level - i.e. for his group he had the requirement that everyone had to have published at least one story. And if you are a beginner writer, you might want to look for a group of other beginner writers. He also mentioned that conventions and events like the one we were at were a good way to meet other writers - i.e. go to writer panels. And he stressed the importance of networking among your peers because someday one will be an editor of something and someone else will recommend you to their agent, etc.
(11) Where did he teach when he was in Iowa?
He taught at Clark College. He was the print journalism department. He also ended up having to be the advisor to the student newspaper - which he hadn't expected or been told about prior to getting the job. He got into trouble doing this as his role was really to censor the school newspaper and he didn't believe in censorship. So as a result there were articles about lesbians and other hot topics...well for the 1970s at an all Catholic girls college.
(12) How does he feel about the Jets' new quarterback.
This was puzzling to GRRM as of course the Jets do not have a new quarterback...so basically the guy asking the question had his sports news completely wrong.
(13) Talk about your switch from journalism to being a writer.
GRRM always knew he wanted to be a writer but he also knew how little a writer could make. So he majored in journalism in college as a fall back career possibility. However, he started selling stories in college so he never really had to fall back on the journalism career. He learned a lot from his journalism training. He doesn't think it would be the best fall back choice for an aspiring writer today, however, as today journalism as a fall back position might be a sinking ship. He mentioned that he has a podcast for aspiring writers and recommended they check it out. He did stress that if you want to be a writer, you must write a piece and finish it. A lot of people talk about wanting to be a writer, a lot of people start stories...to be a writer, you must finish a story. He also told people to be prepared for a lot of rejection.
(14) How does he feel about Jaime loosing to Rand al'Thor in the Suvudu Cage Match?
(15) Any books he'd read recently that he'd recommend?
He recently read Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis which he really enjoyed. The Nazis have supermen! The British have demons!
(16) How does he feel about Jaime loosing to Rand al'Thor in the Suvudu Cage Match? (Yes, this really was asked for a second time)
al'Thor's fans cheated! Jaime lacks magical powers so it really wasn't a fair fight. Magical powers make it hard for a swordsman. He was glad Jaime managed to defeat Hermione Granger. He was really glad to see the fan support for the event. But he wondered if maybe some more mainstream cage matches could be more interested. He'd like to see Silas Marner take on Huck Finn.
(17) Does he have a system for keeping track of his characters?
This is becomming increasingly more difficult for him. Most info is in his head. He does have family trees drawn up for the main families. But he finds himself having to keep going back and rereading his writing to find out info about his characters. He uses the "search" button on his books a lot. Computers and the "search" function make it a lot easier to find the info he is looking for. HE IS REALLY SICK OF EYE COLORS!!!!! He could tell everyone in the audience has eyes. However, he couldn't tell what color anyone has. You only really notice a person's eye color when you go in to kiss them. As a brown eyed person he gets really annoyed by the lack of brown eyed characters. Too much blue. And ff you have purple eyes...you are obviously important! He wishes he had never given any of his characters eye colors as he doesn't like having to keep that info straight. Instead he'd rather focus on things like a character's speach patterns. He likes to try and stay consistent to a character with that. Its important to him to keep a difference between the high born and poor people.
(18) Which characters most helped him develop the story?
They all did. In the beginning it was mainly the adult characters as the kids were just along for the ride. But now that the kids are growing up, that is changing.
(19) Does it hurt to kill a character?
Yes. Even the sons of bitches. The death in Book 3 was the hardest to do.
(20) What was his mindset in having a smaller pace in Feast of Crows and the growing importance of religion?
GRRM was inspired by real history and reading about the 100 Years War and the Crusades. He wanted to make people turning to religion in times like that a part of his world. He is also trying to incorporate real things into the story he is writing now. He wants to bring in the elements of disease which isn't often addressed. Often people will just have a bolt of lightning kill off everyone in a story but in reality it would be thousands of people dying from disease. Its difficult to decide how far to go down this road. You don't want it to end up like in Monty Python where everyone ends up covered in shit.
(21) Will the next Dunk & Egg story take place at Winterfell?
Probably - but he hasn't started writing it yet. But that is the plan.
(22) Aragorn v. Jaime - who would win?
GRRM had to clarify what their condition would be and what they'd be fighting with. Jaime would have both his hands. Just swords. So a fairly even fight. Clarification was needed on what sort of protective gear Aragon actually wears and this segwayed into a brief mention about armour and how it was worn and used for a reason.
(23) You are so good at humanizing your less than likeable characters...so when are we going to see the other side of Melisandre?
She has a viewpoint in the next book. He likes to show that all his characters are human. He doesn't believe in Dark Lords. He loves Tolkien but Dark Lords haven't worn well in the hands of Tolkien's immitators. The most evil people in the world don't think of themselves as evil. Hitler probably thought of himself as a hero. You need to reflect this. His favorite quote is from William Faulkner after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature..."...the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. That is his mantra.
(24) Does he know how he is going to end the series?
He thinks he does but he reserves the right to change it. But he knows where he is going.
(25) Any particular storyline he is enjoying right now?
He said that Dany's storyline is emerging in increasing importance. But he is struggling with the Meereenese Knot. So he can't say he is enjoying it. But he is really enjoying writing Arya's story. He could write an entire novel of it. He could write an entire YA novel about her...(at this point the audience starting clapping and calling out YES! DO IT!)...but her entire story isn't part of the greater novel. He has 12 novels worth of info for this book and its hard to fit it all in.
(26) How different is the plot from what he originally envisioned?
Not different - just more of it. It has grown in complexity but he likes it that way because it feels real to him.
GRRM concluded his talk by mentioning the Dothraki language that is being created for the HBO series by David Peterson of the Language Creation Society. He talked about how after the press release went out about it, someone had to come forward and denounce the Society. How many people in the world create their own languages? There can't be that many of them. But no matter how few of them there are, even they have factions. Human life and politics are complex and he tried to reflect this in his novels. It isn't just good guys and back guys because even among the good guys there would be 17 different factions.